Levant Mine & Beam Engine
Pendeen near St Just
Cornwall TR19 7SX
It is said that “At the bottom of any deep hole in the world you will find a Cornishman”. This of course refers to the extraordinary and traditional abilities of the miners from Cornwall.
One can really only get an idea of what amazing men these were by visiting one of the 19th century copper and tin mines on the coast of Cornwall. Levant Mine is one such mine with the oldest surviving steam-powered Cornish beam engine once again in action.
This mine is perched on the edge of the cliff, with its shafts going down approximately 2100 feet or 640 meters below sea level and over 1 mile (1.6 km) out to sea.
Although the undersea workings are now flooded, a short underground tour takes the visitor from the miners' dry tunnel to the main engine shaft via a spiral staircase. You can also see the winding and pumping shafts, and the restored electric winding engine.
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Levant Mine History
In 1820 a local miner founded Levant and immediately located rich veins of copper and tin. Over the years the mine continued to get deeper and further under the Atlantic Ocean reaching its greatest depth in 1904.
Until 1857 the miners had to climb down wooden ladders to their place of work then a Man Engine was installed on the mine. This took the miners down and up the 1800 feet (548 metres) from the surface with considerably less effort.
The steam operated Beam engine is the Whim Engine built in 1840 by Harvey & Co. of Hayle. It was used to haul the ore up from the deep levels of the mine via Skip Shaft, initially using kibbles (buckets). Sometime in the 1860s these were replaced with skips running between wooden guides bringing the ore up at a speed of 400 feet (122 metres) per minute. Another of the engine’s tasks was to transport tools and equipment down the shaft for use in the mine.
Skip Shaft was Levant's main hauling shaft and was close to the cliff edge to minimise the underground hauling distance. Even so this was a considerable distance and ponies were used, even an underground steam locomotive was tried.
Like many old Cornish shafts, Skip Shaft is crooked and restricted in width. It is 278 fathoms (508 metres) deep below adit level, the adit (mine entrance) was just above high water mark.
There was a terrible accident on October 20th 1919 when the main rod of the Man Engine broke killing 31 miners and injuring many more. Despite this disaster, the mine did not finally close until 1931.
The Present Day
The Whim Engine was restored by the ‘Greasy Gang’ of the Trevithick Society before being handed over to the National Trust. Throughout the year volunteers keep the engine operating under steam and it is a wonderful sight to see.
Plan Your Visit
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Opening days, times & Admission Costs
For up to date details of Site Opening, Steaming Times & Admission go to the official National Trust website shown below.
Parking: Separate parking, 50 yards. Level surface on slope
Building: Level entrance.
Alternative accessible entrance: Access available to first floor and external workings only in Engine House.
Level access to reception, shop, Skip Shaft and audio visual.
Toilets; baby change facilities; small retail outlet for industrial artefacts
There are no refreshments facilities.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1736 786 156
National Trust/ Levant Mine & Engine External Link
- By Car
On B3306 St Just to St Ives road.
Free - 100 yards (91 metres) away.
The National Trust website has detailed information on their website Web: Levant Mine & Beam Engine/ How to get here External Link
Google Map - Levant Mine and Beam Engine